Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Aging Effect

I love numbers

One of my first memories is being a little blonde, blue eyed choir boy sitting in the Choir Stalls at St Edwards Church in Leek, Staffordshire and, during the sermon, factorizing the hymn numbers and testing them for primality.

So you can imagine how, many years later when I retired and bought a bike, how delighted I was to discover Garmin and be able to amass data streams of every variable imaginable from my rides. Of course, collecting data is one thing, turning that into information and knowledge is quite another.

My last post talked about Virtual Cycling brought on by the fact that my body needed a rest to recover from the stresses of my London 100 adventure. But now, after  two weeks of complete rest,  I thought it time to try and see if my knee ligament had healed. A young whipper snapper ( anyone who is more than 26 years younger than me falls into that category! ) had invited me to go on a slow, sociable ride with him and after I had examined his statistics on Strava it was obvious that he was in need of some serious education in cycling etiquette, namely the NECESSITY to stop at tea and cake shops. So I took it upon  myself to induct him to the Tea Shops of Derbyshire.

As an aside I have noticed that many of the younger generation that I ride with, zoom along, zipping past scores of tea shops without a thought of the calorific delights that lie within. I have decided it is my personal mission to rectify this failing in their lycra clad make up.

The ride itself was only 33km and the pace was a mere 22kph with 287m of climbing. But it was hard work. Indeed it was very hard work and demonstrated to me how just two weeks with zero exercise can cause an OAP's fitness levels to drop off dramatically.

Now it so happens that my companion is also a numbers nerd and has a Garmin Edge 800 like mine and so after the ride was over I thought I would compare his effort expended to my efforts.

Total distance  33.1 km and elevation gained was 287 m

                                          Me                                                         Mr D

Avg Power                        95 watts                                                   94 watts

Cadence                            81 rpm                                                     75 rpm

Avg Heart Rate                 137 bpm                                                  107 bpm

Max Heart Rate                 160 bpm                                                  136 bpm

Now there are many different algorthims for calculating one's Peak Heart Rate before you explode, and the most optimistic one for me gives a value of 169 bpm, so you can see from the above that I was approaching the limit whilst my companion was forever in tick over mode. It did seem to me that this demonstrated the aging effect on one's fitness quite dramatically.

What did surprise ( worry ? ) me though was that I had needed to expend so much effort and so I thought I would compare my performance this time with my Ride of a Lifetime, London 100, which was only a couple of weeks ago.

A breakdown of how my heart performed was interesting.

On the London 100, whilst the journey was obviously much longer, about half of the ride was spent at Moderate Level of effort with the other half at Tempo,  which for me means * race pace * . Only 3% of the time was my heart operating at threshold level and I would need to check but that was probably when climbing Leith Hill.

Compare  this to my Return to the Saddle Ride after 2 weeks complete rest

and you can see that 15% of the time I was operating in Threshold and the majority of the time at Tempo.

No wonder I felt it hard work!

So I have attempted to turn data into information, as for the knowledge gained; does it mean that I should have tried harder at London?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Virtual Cycling

I wrote a couple of weeks ago how my body was beginning to fall apart and how it needed a rest. However, by natural healing, or will power and adrenalin, it recovered enough for me to take part in the London100.
Following that event I started to revert back to my normal non-training regime and whilst I managed about 150km the following week, the knee ligament pain returned with a vengance so I have decided to have a forthnght  Off Bike to give it a good rest.

And so I am bored.

Very bored.

The only thing for it was to take up Virtual Cycling.
This involves reading about the adventures of others and deciding whether now is the time for a bit of cycle maintenence  and upgrade.

What I enjoy most is reading about the journeys that others have undertaken, the trials that they have encountered, the social history of the places seen and in this regard one of the best books that I have read for ages is

"The man with no Bike Clips : A Lancashire Cycling Year " by Alan Duckworth

This is not an account of the fearless exploits of a lycra clad road warrior but more the cycling rambles of a middle aged man exploring his local area and bringing back memories of his earlier life.

Compared to me of course, Alan is still a young whipper snapper but that does not prevent me considering the next addition to my cycle stable. The current stable comprises a couple of Mercians and a Specialized Sirrus Comp Hybrid so N=3.  However everyone ( except possibly my wife ! ) KNOWS that the number of bikes you need is N+1
A friend may soon be leaving Europe to live in USA and has asked if he goes, would I like his european bike as he has a virtually identical one already in California.

It is a Giaint TCR Advanced SL3 fitted with an Ultegra Di2 Group Set

Admittedly it is not yet fitted with the latest Garmin Vector pedals to give continuous readings of power generated output corrected for asymmetrical effort in each of one's legs, but I am sure he would throw that in as a minor upgrade.

You may wonder whether I really need an aero shaped carbon racing machine equipped with a Compact Groupset ( compared to the triples on my other bikes ) for my gentle Tea Shop Tours,  but when I rode the London100 , apart from Leith and Box Hills, I was permanently on the Big Ring making the Middle Ring redundant. So the case is virtually proven!

And it would have the added advantage, it being constructed out of Carbon, that there would be zero rusting risk if I were to take it down to the local shops to do the shopping.

Need more be said ??

Ought I to acquire it?

Is any extra justification needed to persuade my wife the merits of this essential acquisition?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Week 12 Day 7 The Big Day..Prudential London Ride100

And so, after weeks of training; those rides in the Derbyshire Peaks in the depth of winter, the pain of the hills,  the suffering in Rutland, the cadence and interval training practice, the hours spent in the saddle, it all comes down to this.  In front of me lay 100 miles of the roads of London and the Surrey Hills. I have tried to stick to the training plan and I went to the start with an act of faith that having still not ever ridden beyond 130 km, the plan said that the adrenalin on the day would take me through.

My Mercian cleaned and loaded, I was ready to start my challenge of a lifetime and head to London

and get ourselves registered onto the Starting Rosta which was at the Excel Centre just across the river from the O2 Centre.

Worried about the logistics of getting to the start on time we had booked into a hotel close to the Olympic Park and that became Race HQ for the event. ( As an aside when my son asked me to join him on a            * ramble * around London on a father-son ride it was just a saunter, as time went on the missives from the organizers started changing in tone,, event- sportive - teams - business relay races etc  with the pressure on my usual tea shop tour meander pace increasing considerably )

And so the night before we had our final pre -event checks, with particular attention to my  nutrition needs

and getting all the numbers attached to everything that stayed still long enough

And so to the event. We were one of the last few to leave the starting gate, the last wave, V,  at 08-00 and this had caused us further concern as there was a 4 km neutral zone before the Official Start and as the first time cut off was at 40 km we were concerned that our race would be over before it had properly begun

In the event we proved to be well on track and my trusty Mercian must have had the shock of its life as the Big Ring was in constant use, and indeed remained in constant use throughout 90% of the ride. Previously, before I started on training for this, the Big Ring was something to look at, talk about and admire, certainly NOT to use and definitley out of the question whenever the road went upwards. As it was I only changed down to the Inner Ring on Leith and Box Hills; all those practice rides in the Derbyshire Peaks turned out to have conditioned me well.

I knew from past experience that stopping for a rest can be fatal as my legs want to shut down and rest so I did the entire 164 km without stopping apart from the need to reload my pockets with food from the saddle pouch.

Leith Hill proved a challenge, not only in its length and gradient but because of the bike pushers and those riders whose legs suddenly gave out and stopped in the middle of a very narrow ride on an 18% incline. Overtaking proved difficult and slowed me down but I kept on pedalling and eventually was rewarded with some stupendous views.

( Thanks to Andy Wright for permission to use both this and the next image )

The stream of cyclists seemed endless and you could see the look of exhileration on their faces as they crested the final summit .

With Leith and Box conquored it was time to turn to home and though there was a final nasty surprise as the road ramped skywards out of  Wimbledon before I was soon  finally entering the Mall with the crowds  cheering cheering.

And then it was over, 7 hours after leaving the Olympic Park I was back outside Buckingham Palace. I had sent my son on ahead as we reached the start of the Surrey Hills as I did not want to hold him up but he was waiting for me at the end

Team Roberts had made it !

And this was what it was all about

But of course the real winner was the mental health charity Mind for whom we had raised over £2600 and as I cycled down the Mall it was those who I knew that needed their support that I was thnking about.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement over the last weeks and months, without you I doubt whether I would have kept going, especially in those cold dark days of winter.